When I heard the small quiet whisper, “you will work with people who are suffering”, I resisted. My plan was to help people live, saving lives as a cardiac clinical nurse specialist. With the launch of cardiac rehab programs, a new discipline emerging, Exercise Physiology, my own commitment to swimming, 6 am three times a week, my plan was to help folks live healthy lives, by identify risk factors, and lifestyle changes.
I was amazed at even being a nurse. There was never a moment in my life that I had dreams of being a nurse.
I was studying child development at Eastern Kentucky University, having transferred my sophomore year in college from Virginia Intermont College, in Bristol Virginia where I majored in Home Economics, and minored in Equestrian Studies. Once at EKU, I changed majors to Child Development. As a course assignment, I wrote a paper about being the sister, with a brother who developed a very rare bone disorder, affecting the growth of his long bones. He and my parents were told he would not grow. He was 12, I was 13. Being the two middle kids out of 4, and close in age, we were very close, shared the same friends, and spent a lot of time together, just talking. I could feel his pain. He suffered from physical pain in his hips, his hands, crawling up the stairs at the end of the day. He suffered existential pain as the prayers of a little boy went unanswered. The paper received an A, and I wondered that I wrote such a beautiful paper about my brother’s childhood, and pain. I wondered about where that come from.
The next year, my college roommate was leaving early in the morning for her first clinical rotation, in her student nurse’s uniform, and I decided to switch my major, again, to nursing. I had never in my entire life (20 years), been so challenged and so determined. I had entered the most difficult major on campus. I was in the first class to graduate from the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at EKU. I remember sitting in classes and wondering about where this is coming from, why am I so driven, why do I want this so badly. Out of the 100 students who were in my first clinical rotation, 25 graduated.
Two years after graduating, I was accepted into the master’s in nursing program at University of Cincinnati, pursuing the Clinical Nurse Specialist track in Cardiovascular Nursing.
Here I was introduced to the Nursing Theorist, Dr. Rosemary Parse, and her theory of nursing, “Man-Living-Health” (now known as Human Becoming). Her theory was grounded in phenomenology and ontology. Man co-creates unlimited possibilities, lived experience is living health. I was curious about the lived experience of “suffering” and “being safe”.
Simultaneously my brother was so debilitated that he required replacements for both hips. He was only 28 years old, the hips were unrecognizable on Xray, appearing crumbled, and distorted. He had significant pain with every step.
But, the material for hip replacement in 1982 was expected to last only 10 years. Miraculously, an orthopedic surgeon in Cincinnati, studied in France, and received special approval for the experiential trial of replacing my brother’s hips with a new ceramic material. Not even FDA approved, and the first in the US to receive, naturally this was big news for this Cincinnati hospital, and orthopedic surgeon. My brother received one new hip, and two weeks later, the second. He was in the hospital for a month. He was up walking the day after each of his surgeries. A big deal in the world of orthopedic surgeons.
But I received phone calls all night long. He could not sleep he was in so much pain!! I went into the hospital to stay with him one night. With the beginning of the 11pm shift, the night shift supervisor walked into Gary’s room, with her starched white uniform, and white nurses cap, she says to my brother – “Now Gary, please do not be on the nurse call light all night long. The nurse can only give the Demerol for pain as prescribed by the doctor, every 4 hours, no sooner!!” The hour after the injection he was comfortable, and drowsy. Within the second hour, he was wide awake and uncomfortable again, within the third hour the pain was out of control. I witnessed suffering. I made several trips up and down the hallway that night, asking for an increase in the dose, if not the increase in frequency – to a response – “these are the doctor’s orders”.
In the early predawn light, he was finally resting, breathing easy. I was sitting on the chair next to his bed, with my head resting on the hospital bed siderail. I looked up to see the sunrise behind the steeple of a church in downtown Cincinnati. In the stillness, I heard the whisper – “you will work with people who are suffering”. No, not me….
Ten years later, I find myself caring for people who are dying, and their grieving families. In my role as Veteran Care Liaison, I coordinated the development of programs designed to provide unique care for our country’s veterans at end of life. This experience, caring for our country’s veterans, was a catapult to being curious about PTSD, undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress, and the Secondary Traumatic Stress of nurses, social workers, physicians, chaplains who cared for them.
I was curious about the benefits of yoga being a nonpharmacological intervention for PTSD. With weeks to live, psychotherapy and medications were not feasible. I was aware of the benefits of yoga in my own life. Being curious, I discovered a whole new field of trauma research and new interventions for PTSD through “trauma sensitive yoga”. I pursued yoga teacher training, a required qualification for advanced certification in Warriors at Ease, teaching yoga and meditation in military communities. I also created trauma sensitive yoga workshops and presentations for the hospice team caring for Veterans with PTSD and experiencing secondary traumatic stress. I joked with my hospice team while pursuing yoga teacher training and WAE certifications about my retirement job–teaching yoga at 70.
Retiring from a 40-year nursing career, I discovered coaching through the John Maxwell Team, and discovered the second most important day of my life – why I was born. Holding space for suffering, bearing witness to the transcending of suffering, the rhythm of suffering and grace. Creating the environment for our bodies to heal, ethical growth.
Working with me as trauma recovery coach, I bring an expansive presencing to the coaching process, along with the contemplative practices of trauma sensitive yoga and trauma sensitive meditation.
Aligned with my passion for holding space for the sanctity of suffering, and drawing upon 40 years in the nursing profession, over 20 years in hospice, my own synchronized nervous system, inner coherent, and rhythms of movement, through swimming, cycling, running, training for triathlons, Kathryn holds the following certifications, designations, and licenses.
Thomas Huebl Practice Group Leader Certification, practicing Transparent Communication; a student of Conscious Healing with Thomas Huebl for advance practitioners in coaching, nurses, psychotherapist, medicine
Coaching certification through JM Method of Coaching
Certified WAE teacher – teaching yoga and meditation in military communities
Member of team Red White Blue, volunteer yoga coordinator for team RWB Dayton
Coordinated one of the first We Honor Veterans programs in the country, working with the National VAHC and NHPCO in developing unique programs for country veterans at End of Life. Received honorable mention at the 5-year anniversary for work in WHV
Honor Flight Guardian accompanying Veterans receiving hospice care on Honor Flight Dayton
Developing process improvement programs designed for improving the caring for veterans at end of life, collaborating with VAHC, developing education for hospice team; Planning annual conference for the community healthcare providers, bringing nationally known speakers – Deborah Grassman, founder of Opus Peace, St. Petersburg, FL; Earl Morse, founder of Honor Flight, Dayton, OH; Wayne Muller, founder of Bread for the Journey Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Certified ELNEC for Veterans Facilitator/Train the Trainer (End of Life Nursing Education Consortium)
Program Development Chair for Hospice Veteran Partnership-OH
Speaker at local, state, national level for hospice organizations – “Warriors at Ease; Trauma Sensitive Yoga for PTSD, and STS”, “Honor Flight, Their Last Chance”; “We Honor Veterans”; A Process Improvement Project for We Honor Veterans”.
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN)
America Cancer Society – President of local board, and board member for 10 years; received Leader of the Year award; received Volunteer of the Year award
Clinical Ladder Coordinator – Bethesda Hospitals (TriHealth) Cincinnati; founded on Patricia Benner’s, “From Novice to Expert” – promoting clinical nursing advancement valuing their expertise at the bedside.
Sigma Theta Tau, Beta Iota Chapter – Honorary Nursing Society, University of Cincinnati
Chi Omega Sorority, Eastern Kentucky University